THE TOP 20 FOOD STARTUPS DRIVING THE FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE

THE TOP 20 FOOD STARTUPS DRIVING THE FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE


In March this year a UN backed study revealed that more than one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity can be attributed to the way we produce, process and package food.

By Chiara Cecchini​

It is no mystery that the global food system generates a huge negative impact on the health of our environment, being responsible for up to one-third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. In light of the 3.1 billion additional people that will need to be fed by 2100, and of the urgent need to fight climate change before its effects become irreversible, more and more startups are springing up in the food sector that use innovative technologies to bring to the market healthy, tasty and sustainable products.

Here’s a list of 20 incredible food startups that you need to keep an eye on.

1. AKUA

Founded: 2019, New York

Founders: Courtney Boyd Myers, Matthew Lebo

Elevator Pitch: AKUA utilizes kelp as its main ingredient to revolutionize the plant-based food industry, developing a portfolio that includes kelp jerky, kelp-based pasta and a kelp burger.

Problem They Solve: The startup unlocks nutrition from an ingredient that is sustainable and healthy for people and the planet. It helps consumers shift towards a healthier diet without compromising taste, and by offering products that are very similar to the ones they’re already used to.

Distribution: The brand is currently available at several outlets throughout the US, including the big retail chains Costco and Kroger.

Interested in AKUA?
To find more about its products and mission, see here.

2. Misadventure Vodka

Founded: 2013, Vista, California

Founders: Whit Rigali, Samuel Chereskin

Elevator Pitch: Misadventure uses surplus baked goods from local food banks as the main ingredient to produce vodka. 

Problem They Solve: The startup gives a new life to baked goods that would otherwise be thrown away, providing a sustainable upcycled solution for fans of spirits and liquors who want to contribute to the health of the planet through their purchasing choices.

Distribution: The product is currently available at a range of hotels and restaurants throughout California, and ships anywhere in the US through its online shop.

Interested in Misadventure?
To learn more, see here.

3. Heura

Founded: 2017, Barcelona, Spain

Founders: Marc Coloma, Bernat Añaños

Elevator Pitch: Heura has introduced a plant-based burger made from an innovative fat analogue that transforms extra virgin olive oil into a solid fat, allowing them to claim having brought to the market the ‘world’s healthiest burger’. Heura’s product portfolio includes not only burgers, but also chicken-like chunks and strips.

Problem They Solve: The special fat utilized in Heura’s innovative recipes allows to provide an healthier alternative to any other plant-based meat, while at the same time perfectly replicating the sensorial experience of meat, therefore offering to sustainable consumers an alternative to animal meat that does not require any compromise.

Distribution: The brand is currently available at the most popular retail chains in Spain, France, Italy, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Morocco, Canada and on the East Coast of the US.

Want to know more?
Check out the startup’s website here.

4. Mushlabs

Founded: 2018, Hamburg, Germany

Founders: Mazen Rizk

Elevator Pitch: Mushlabs uses liquid fermentation technology to grow mycelia, the ‘roots’ of mushrooms, and then uses them to produce ingredients that can be used in the alt-protein and meat replacement sectors.

Problem They Solve: This startup detaches the world of plant-based meat and alt-proteins from the supply of the most common base ingredients (namely soy and wheat) using agrifood byproducts as a starting point for its innovative process. The result is a significantly less environmentally impactful alternative for the everyday consumption of mindful consumers. 

Distribution: Mushlabs’ distribution channel is still in the making.

Looking for more?
Find out everything you need here.

5. Mimic Seafood

Founded: 2021, Madrid, Spain

Founders: Ida Speyer, Silvia Moreno, Pedro Alvarez, Apolinar Amador

Elevator Pitch: Mimic produces plant-based seafood starting from tomatoes, obtaining a final product that perfectly replicates raw cuts of sushi-grade tuna.

Problem They Solve: Mimic’s seafood allows customers to consume sushi and poke products in a way that is cruelty free, heavy metal free, non-GMO,
Anisakis & listeria free and avoids over-fishing, bycatch and other harmful fishing practices. 

Distribution: The product is currently available in foodservice throughout Spain.

Find out more about Mimic here

6. NotCo

Founded: 2015, Santiago, Chile

Founders: Matias Muchnick, Karim Pichara Baksai, Pablo Zamora

Elevator Pitch: NotCo uses artificial intelligence to design a new generation of plant-based products.

Problem They Solve: Thanks to its AI-powered algorithm, NotCo is able to select and discover innovative ingredient combinations to create appealing flavours, textures and smells.

Distribution: the company has experienced rapid growth and has now expanded to several countries in Latin America. 

Find more about the company here.

7. Barvocado

Founded: 2020, New York

Founders: Jerome Burdi

Elevator Pitch: Barvocado upcycles avocado seeds through innovative technology to obtain tasty, nutritional and sustainable bars that can serve as healthy and delicious snacks for even the most demanding consumers.

Problem They Solve: This solution does not only allow make the most of a part of the fruit that would normally go to waste, but also unlocks access to a precious source of nutrients, given the seed is the richest part of avocados in terms of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. 

Distribution: Barvocado bars are available online on the company’s website and at selected stores in the US.

Interested in Barvocado? Check their website here.

8. Nova Meat

Founded: 2018, Barcelona, Spain

Founders: Giuseppe Scionti 

Elevator Pitch: NovaMeat is using 3D printing technologies to create plant-based steaks that mimic the texture and taste of beef or pork. 

Problem They Solve: This startup takes plant-based meat alternatives beyond standard burgers, moving closer to a perfect replication of texture and consistency and therefore potentially taking on a big role in facilitating flexitarian consumers’ shift towards a reduced animal meat consumption.

Distribution: After several years of product development, the company is now reportedly planning to enter the B2B and B2B markets in 2022.

Find further information on the company’s website.

9. Renewal Mill

Founded: 2016, San Francisco, California

Founders: Claire Schlemme

Elevator Pitch: Renewal Mill has perfected state-of-the-art technological processing that develops highly nutritious floors out of okara, the main byproduct associated with the processing of soy. 

Problem They Solve: Considering that the production of 1kg of soy generates an almost equal amount of byproduct, the company is proposing a solution that allows repurposing and unlocking the nutritional potential of a huge amount of what would be conventionally considered as waste. 

Distribution: the company’s products are sold directly to manufacturers, producers, food service outlets, and brokers throughout the US.

Interested in knowing more? Find out further information here.

10. Solar Foods

Founded: 2020, Helsinki, Finland

Founders: Pasi Vainikka

Elevator Pitch: Solar Foods developed an innovative technological process that allows for the production of a single-cell protein, trademarked as Soleine, from just water, air and electricity. 

Problem They Solve: The mission of the company is to completely detach food production from plants and animals to significantly reduce the impact generated on the environment by the food system. 

Distribution: Solar Foods is now perfecting its production process with the aim of bringing its product to the market soon.

Find out more here.

11. EverGrain

Founded: 2021, St. Louis, Missouri

Founders: Gregory Belt

Elevator Pitch: Thanks to the application of innovative technologies, EverGrain upcycles saved grains generated during the production process of beer into healthy, nutritious and sustainable ingredients that can be used in the plant-based dairy and bakery industries.

Problem They Solve: EverGrain’s products help people include more nutritious ingredients in their lives, improving their health while at the same time saving perfectly nutritious food that would otherwise be discarded.

Distribution: The company entered the US market early this year and is currently aiming to establish a wide international presence.

Learn more.

12. Juicy Marbles

Founded: 2019, Kamnik, Slovenia

Founders: Luka Sinček, Maj Hrovat, Vladimir Mićković

Elevator Pitch: Juicy Marbles developed the world’s first plant-based whole cut filet mignon presenting the fatty marbling found in animal-based meat.

Problem They Solve: This startup allows to take plant-based meat alternatives beyond standard burgers, moving closer to a perfect replication of texture and consistency and therefore potentially taking on a big role in facilitating flexitarian consumers’ shift towards a reduced animal meat consumption.

Distribution: the product is currently available only on the company’s online shop.

Find out more here.

13. Atomo Coffee

Founded: 2019, Seattle, Washington

Founders: Jarret Stopforth

Elevator Pitch: Atomo has found a way to leverage state-of-the-art technology to produce coffee out of normally discarded commercial fruit seeds, through a specially-designed upcycling process. 

Problem They Solve: The company’s solution allows to reduce waste, give more value to producers and provide consumers with a more sustainable alternative to coffee that preserves the taste, aroma, body and caffeine content of the original product. 

Distribution: Atomo’s products are currently only available for limited purchasing on their website.

Learn more on the company’s website.

14. Calabizo

Founded: 2015, Nigran, Spain

Founders:  Edurne Sendra de Saá, Sofia Calvo Arias, Keila Pousa Arbones

Elevator Pitch: Calabizo is offering the only plant-based chorizo present on the market that is processed in the traditional way of curing and smoking with oak.

Problem They Solve: Calabizo’s pumpkin sausage presents high nutritional value, few calories, and is rich in fibre, antioxidants and vitamin B6, representing one of the most interesting players in the rapidly expanding plant-based charcuterie space.

Distribution: The brand is currently available in selected stores and restaurants throughout Spain.

Find out more here.

15. Good Catch

Founded: 2017, Newton, Pennsylvania

Founders: Chad Sarno, Marci Zaroff

Elevator Pitch: This chef-driven NY-based startup is specializing in a wide portfolio of plant-based fish sticks, fish fillets, fish burgers, crab cakes and fish cakes, together with tasty varieties of plant-based tuna. 

Problem They Solve: Good Catch utilizes a blend of legumes to deliver the flavors and textures of real seafood, while maintaining a high content of proteins and helping preserve our oceans and their inhabitants.

Distribution: The brand is currently available at major retail chains in US and Canada

Interested in knowing more? Check the official website.

16. QOA

Founded: 2021, Munich, Germany

Founders: Sara F. Marquart, Maximilian Marquart

Elevator Pitch: QOA’s mission is to bring to the market the first cocoa-free chocolate, offering consumers a lavish and indulgence-driven food whilst at the same time getting rid of an ingredient whose production and supply chain are far from planet-friendly. 

Problem They Solve: Thanks to innovative precision fermentation techniques, QOA’s chocolate is 10x more sustainable and 20% cheaper than its conventional counterpart.

Distribution: QOA’s chocolate is currently available only through testing kits on their website.

Get more information here.

17. Moonshot Snacks

Founded: 2019, San Francisco, California

Founders: Julia Collins

Elevator Pitch: Moonshot uses ingredients from a fully traceable network and a carbon negative process & distribution to develop a line of crazy delicious climate-beneficial crackers.

Problem They Solve: The company offers an all-around sustainable option for fans of snacking. This involves verified regenerative agriculture farmers, keeping the supply chain shortened, making use of 100% recyclable packaging, and completely offsetting their carbon footprint. 

Distribution: The products are currently available online and at selected stores throughout the US.

Find out more here.

18. Pricklee

Founded: 2019, Newton, Massachussets

Founders: Sarwang Shah, Aakash Dheri, Mo Hassoun, Kun Yang, Jaanai Babb

Elevator Pitch: Pricklee makes delicious water out of prickly pears (the cactus fruits) to provide an even more nutritious and planet-conscious alternative to coconut water. 

Problem They Solve: The product obtained is rich in vitamin C, flavonoids, betalains, and polyphenols, supporting skin health, immunity, and recovery. Moreover, it contains half the sugar and calories of an equivalent serving of the leading coconut water brand. 

Learn more here.

19. Upside Foods

Founded: 2015, Berkeley, California

Founders: Uma Valeti

Elevator Pitch: Urban Food has been pioneering the cell-based meat sector, developing the first ever cultured beef meatball and cultured chicken & duck.

Problem They Solve: Upside Foods helps provide sustainable choices to meat lovers who do not feel ready to switch to plant-based alternatives.

Distribution: Today, the company is working on establishing its first production facility, which should lead to the first product launches by the end of 2021. 

Learn more here.

20. Nobell Foods

Founded: 2016, San Francisco, California

Founders: Magi Richani

Elevator Pitch: Nobell Foods unlocks the power of plants to create the next generation of animal-based food substitutes.

Problem They Solve: Thanks to its innovative patented technology, Nobell Foods is able to obtain plant-based key dairy proteins which are fundamental in giving dairy its desirable qualities like stretch, melt and mouthfeel, allowing them to recreate plant-based dairy that’s as similar as possible to the original one, with a significantly decreased impact on the environment and a positive effect on consumers’ health.

Distribution: Nobell’s products are still at the development stage and will be available by the end of 2022 or in early 2023.

Curious for more? Check the company’s website.


Looking at this quick run-through, we can see how the space at the intersection between food and climate is rapidly populating with innovative solutions. This represents a positive promise for the development of more sustainable and equitable food systems and the shaping of a better future for people and the planet. From plant-based to upcycling, to lab-grown food and recipes that merge tradition and innovation, there’s really a lot to keep an eye on.

Consumers willing to adopt more sustainable eating habits and food system experts aiming at exploring new business opportunities should be aware of the significance of this space and join forces to make it grow to its full potential.

Chiara Cecchini

Chiara is the CEO at Future Food Americas and she is leading the Corporate Innovation unit at Future Food Network. Working with a group of designers, chefs, scientists, nutritionists and economists, Chiara and her team deliver international educational programs to build capacity on food and sustainability, engage the broader community through physical and digital activations, as well as help major companies become more eco-friendly through R&D activities. Former researcher at the Food, Science and Technology Dept. at UC Davis, she is now part of the Expert Network at the World Economic Forum. In 2020 Chiara has been recognized as Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe for Social Entrepreneurship.

To Hear More from Chiara, Listen to Her Interview on the Tech4Climate Podcast:

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